Hyperledger Project Reflects on Blockchain Politics

Ian Allison | International Business Times | January 27, 2017

Hyperledger's Brian Behlendorf discusses abortive attempt to relicense the C++ Ethereum client to the Apache 2.0 licence.

Like any community, the blockchain world is also a political arena. Powerful consortia have emerged in a race to production, licencing spats occur and there's even a risk that patent enforcements could freeze innovation. The Hyperledger Project, which is now a major player in the space, gives blockchain the Linux Foundation treatment: fostering a series of open multi-stakeholder technology projects. Brian Behlendorf, the executive director of the Hyperledger Project, is a primary developer of the Apache Web server and a founding member of the Apache Software Foundation.

Blockchain politics are well illustrated by the proposal to bring the C++ implementation of the Ethereum client runtime to Hyperledger, which required relicensing the code from the copyleft GPLv3 licence to the more permissive Apache 2.0 licence – a deal shepherded by Behlendorf among others. In the end it turned out that there were some developers in the Ethereum community who were opposed to relicensing it under the Apache licence.

Behlendorf said: "Hyperledger has standardised on the Apache license. With everything under the same licence, there's this mixability that we preserve for the future, so that you can merge and recycle code from one code base to another. You don't get when you have code under different multiple licences. You put the Apache licence in front of any corporate lawyer and they can understand it. They can see this avoids creating any obligation to release their own proprietary IP they might link to this code. The GPL causes concern for people who read it closely. This has been the strategy at the Apache Software Foundation for over 20 years, and we are following suit"...